A boat with 86 migrants heading to Europe overturned off Libya’s coast, leading to the death of more than 60 people, including women and children, the U.N. migration agency reported.
This was the latest disaster in this part of the Mediterranean Sea, a perilous route for migrants who want a better life in Europe, where officials say thousands have perished.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration said in a statement that survivors of the harrowing shipwreck told them that strong waves capsized the boat near Zuwara, a town on Libya’s western coast, and 61 migrants drowned. The agency posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that the central Mediterranean remains one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes.
Libya became the main transit point for migrants escaping war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East in recent years. The North African country descended into turmoil after a NATO-backed revolt that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
The country is a key departure point for migrants who attempt to reach the European coasts through the lethal central Mediterranean. This year, more than 2,250 people lost their lives on this route, according to Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesperson.
He wrote on X that this is a shocking figure that shows that sadly not enough is being done to rescue lives at sea.
Human traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos in Libya in recent years, smuggling migrants across the country’s long borders, which it shares with six countries. The migrants are packed into poorly-equipped boats, such as rubber dinghies, and embark on hazardous sea journeys.
Those who are caught and sent back to Libya are detained in government-run centers full of abuses, such as forced labor, beatings, rapes and torture methods that amount to crimes against humanity, according to U.N.-appointed investigators.
The abuse often goes along with attempts to extort money from the relatives of those detained, before the jailed migrants are allowed to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats to Europe.